CHICAGO -- With the streak finally over, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra asked his players to stand together inside the visitors locker room at the United Center and take a moment to reflect on what they'd just accomplished.
The Miami Heat won 27 games in a row, the second-longest streak in American professional sports history, but six wins short of the NBA record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat tasted defeat Wednesday for the first time in 54 days, since a Feb. 1 loss at Indiana. The Chicago Bulls used a fast start and strong finish to beat Miami 101-97.
LeBron James, who led the Heat with 32 points, was asked if he appreciated Spoelstra's gesture.
"Absolutely. We haven't had a moment to really know what we just did, so we had a moment," James said. "Just very fortunate and very humbled and blessed to be a part of this team and be part of a streak like that. It was one of the best this league had ever seen. So we recognized that, and rightfully so."
Spoelstra and his top players insisted they never discussed the streak or their attempts to keep it alive. They simply set goals of improving and winning more often on the road, and the 27-game ride just happened.
"It was an unbelievable streak we were on," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "But in here, it didn't feel like we were on this amazing streak. It just felt like we were playing basketball and we were finding ways to win games, and it happened to result in 27 wins."
The streak clearly captured the nation's attention. Miami's locker room was packed almost to capacity with reporters from all parts of the globe.
"It really didn't matter to us," Wade said. "If you get it, it's awesome. If you don't, we still won 27 games in a row, and that's pretty awesome. We really weren't in here going, 'Man, we've got to get that record.' Not at all.
"Now that it's over, I'm glad it's over. I love seeing you guys, but we'll travel (with) a little less (of a crowd) now. We can continue to focus on the last two weeks of the season on ways to get better and prepare for the playoffs."
It was a physical game throughout. James took a couple of hard fouls, then was called for a flagrant foul when he tried to run through a screen set by former Cleveland teammate Carlos Boozer with 3:52 remaining in the game.
On the previous possession, the referees reviewed a play where James was fouled hard on a drive to the basket by Chicago forward Taj Gibson, but they decided it was a common foul.
"It's been happening all year, and I've been able to keep my cool and try to tell 'Spo, 'Let's not worry about it too much,'" James said. "It is getting to me a little bit, because every time I try to defend myself, I've got to face the consequences of a flagrant on me or a technical foul or whatever the case maybe. It's tough."
Wade understood why his teammate felt compelled to throw his shoulder into Boozer's chest, which resulted in the flagrant foul call.
"I'm surprised he hasn't done it before," Wade said. "A big guy like (James), no one really wants to see him start trying to inflict pain on other people. He plays the game the right way, and it's unfortunate."
During the 27-game streak, there was one victory that went to overtime and three that were decided by three points or fewer.
"We had games similar to this one," he said of the loss to the Bulls. "Things happened to go our way. Tonight, it didn't. You play this game knowing it's about inches. I think that's what we figured out throughout the streak, how at the end, to get that last inch."
Gibson claimed the Bulls weren't thinking about the streak, either, though it was impossible to ignore completely.
"For us, it wasn't even about the streak, it was how they beat us the last time they came here," Gibson said. "We felt like we got punked on our own court, they blew us out (86-67 on Feb. 21), so we just wanted to come out here and play harder and do our jobs the right way."